Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Chasing The Dream, But The Dream Has Changed – What Now?

Friday, January 4th, 2008

It’s been years since I graduated from law school, clerked, worked a few “real” attorney jobs, and yet I find myself now sitting at my workstation, pondering my situation. The world stream is passing me by and sometimes I wonder if I’ve missed it completely or whether I’m simply fishing in the wrong pond.

Reflecting On Past and Present Goals But Facing Reality

I am generally an optimistic person so it’s pretty difficult to get me down, but sometimes it’s not easy working as a contract attorney. The temp lifestyle is lucrative and stress free, but the uneasy instability can be hard to handle sometimes. It’s great to preach faith and resiliency, but sometimes reality can be rather harsh and unfeeling. Yes, I am a contract attorney. I bounce from position to position collecting a pretty stellar paycheck from week to week. Projects range from weeks to months to even years, but at the end of it all, I am still on my own. I don’t have my own legal practice and I don’t have a growing client roll to build off from. But therein lies the quandary I am faced with. With 3 years of legal education and the subsequent degree and job experience to show for it, why is it that I haven’t continued to chase my dreams then? The answer is – my goals and dreams in life have changed.

I entered law school with delusions of legal grandeur with the equivalent sense of reality enjoyed by the ostrich that chooses to plug its head into the ground. Upon acceptance of admission, I was immediately cocooned and safe for the next 3 years from working expectations and the real world. My goal was to study hard in law school, get good grades, join a journal team or moot court, and graduate with a perfect lawyer job all lined up.

Reality did not finally set in until my third year and second semester of law school, when one day I looked around and realized that I was in the wrong place. No I was not lost, but I came to the understanding that the practice of law wasn’t the lucrative and exciting profession I had naively envisioned. Gazing at my modest pile of student loans I wondered, was 3 years of expensive legal schooling really worth it? Perhaps my life would have taken a better turn if I had walked a different path.

We Can’t Go Back But We Can Make Our Own Paths From Here On Out

Eventually, we all have to come to grips with reality and recognize the cards we’ve been dealt. Reality is reality, and things can only get better not worse if we’d only take the time to look at all of the positive skills and experiences we have accumulated since the beginning.

I know contract attorneys come from all backgrounds. Not all temps have come to such a realization that the traditional legal rat race isn’t really going to make them happy. Some, and in fact many are still striving for their original law school dreams. If you are one of those chasers, I encourage you to keep striving higher to meet them and not grow bitter with your temping situation. Contract work will cushion your financial transition and allow you to use the opportunity as a stepping stone to a situation better geared to suit your dreams.

As for myself, the goals and dreams I started law school with are no longer mine. I look at my life now and I have many things to be thankful for. My monthly bills are paid and I have an otherwise healthy and enjoyable life. I have the abundance of time and freedom to pursue my non-legal side businesses and investments. Contract attorney work pays very well and I am not even close to wanting. While I might be honed in the art, I know now that I was never cut out to be a legal hustler in the traditional sense. I have other side ventures that drive me now. Talking to other contract attorneys and listening to their stories about their real estate exploits, interior decorating businesses, and even presidential campaign team aspirations – their experiences are reminders that I am not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving – Remember to Keep Your Priorities Straight

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Life is full of so many stresses and pressures, and it’s easy to get all caught up in the negatives and lose sight of its many positives. Let’s all try to keep our priorities straight this Thanksgiving. I hope those of you who decided to put in extra overtime hours during this paid holiday can try to make it home by the end of dinnertime to share in some of your family’s Thanksgiving festivities. Money is certainly very important and I do understand why many of us choose to work those extra hours, but please don’t forget that while money is replaceable and frequently fleeting, good family and friendships are not.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! Remember to eat hearty – you can work off the pounds later on the treadmill. 🙂

Getting Judged – Why Don’t You Go Get a Real Job?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I’m not a contract attorney because I’m not motivated or because I’m lazy or incompetent, but because it’s the best thing going for me at this time in my life. Although sometimes you just want to look back and try to remember what originally inspired you to attend law school in the first place and compare those reasons to what motivates you today.

Many of my former classmate friends and I left law school with high hopes of working inspiring jobs and living comfortably. Others pursued their dreams of working in organizations where they could help the needy and less fortunate. Since that time, I have seen many of my friends and former classmates grow disillusioned with the law and leave the profession altogether. Others, such as myself, have eventually found ourselves performing contract attorney work. It is so disheartening when I hear stories of people becoming beaten down so early in their careers, and burdened with the relentless weight of unforgiving student loans that presses down heavier with each passing day.

I know many law school graduates who end up working in low paying attorney jobs ($40,000) for years with little hope of advancement. They stay on because they are unable to find any other positions out there and because it affords them the apparent security of a steady paycheck, albeit a tiny one. Some end up working in areas of the law they have no interest in that won’t prepare them for future work in any field they really enjoy. Many keep working in the same dead end job like a good worker bee – just like they were told would be the path to success when they were little. This goes on until they finally burn out and have enough. Hearing all this, it all makes me wonder if I’m really in a worse position because I work as a contract attorney.

What I Always Hear From Non Lawyers

I’ve been told frequently that temporary attorney work is a dead end job, that I should go get a “real permanent position” that will allow me to grow with the firm and ultimately make a million dollars a year. Many of the people who are constantly blabbing in my ear are usually non-lawyers (namely my family members) – people who have bought into the media-spun fantasy image of what attorneys do and the fabulous lives they must live.

But the reality is that being an attorney is not what it used to be. Competition for jobs is fierce and even for the fortunate few who make it as associates working in the big law firms, a tremendous amount of their life energy is demanded of them. Many find themselves working well in excess of 80+ hours a week for many years with little time for anything else.

Is that the working life I really would want to have for myself? Frankly, if I didn’t have people telling me that I needed to go find a stable full time position, I would be feeling pretty okay about my working situation. After all, I currently have a reasonably steady paycheck, a set of growing retirement accounts, paid holidays, and the ability to work as little or as much as I’d like. I can afford to live in a nice apartment with reasonable utility bills and have the means to save a sizable portion of my contract attorney income, even after satisfying my regular student loan payments. True working freedom means that when work time is over, I go home without having to worry about what happened on the job today. Unless I am working weekends, that time is my own and I will never have to rush into the office on a Saturday night because a demanding partner wants me to prepare an emergency brief.

In fact, I am now making a lot more than most of the people I know who took permanent positions at smaller firms where their salaries have yet to experience any appreciable increase, and where they continue to struggle mightily with student loans in the hopes that someday their financial ship will arrive. With the legal job market the way it is, I personally could not wait around forever like them. Suffice to say, my job as a contract attorney has been very good to me.